Elephants, Smiles and the Northern Smokeout!

Thursday, March 18, 2004
Laos is known as the Land of a Million Elephants and Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles. Although we have seen many, many smiles here in Thailand... there was not an elephant to be seen in Laos. Rumor has it that there is still a village somewhere who uses elephants to do work, but that is only a rumor!
About the smokeout - our last destination in Laos was called Luang Prabang. The United Nations declared the entire city a World Heritage Site and we had heard nothing but fantastic things about the place. BUT, apparently everyone we spoke to must have visited the city during the wet season because in the dry season, which we are now in the peak of, they practice slash and burn. That is a practice that is just as it sounds - you set fire to all that is around you and then you might grow something on it. In Northern Laos we turned into chain smokers - without the cigarettes! It was a fantastic city, but the smoke covering the city really put a damper on the place (no pun there!). As we were taking the bus from Ponsavan to the city we literally drove
through some fires. Embers and a few small flames were still burning on both sides of the road we were on. And, while in the city, we awoke every morning to the smell of smoke. They pretty much burn everything in sight (it seems) from dawn til dusk and then they take a rest and start all over again. Apparently, you have a beautiful view of the mountains from every vantage point in the city... but not in dry season!!!

Anyway, we had a great time there visiting the holyland of Laos. It's a small, enchanting city filled with temples, waterfalls, caves and occasionally a little smoke. We even got to see 2 little black bears and a tiger they rescued from poachers. They named the Indonesian Tiger, "Phet". Pronounced "pet". Probably not a coincidence!

We opted for a flight to Thailand's Chiang Mai due to the low levels of the river and lack of roads. We could have taken a slow boat which lasted 2 full days, or a fast boat which arrived after only one... but sped down the river at 60 miles an hour. It might have felt like Frogger the video game! But, as it turns out, the Luang Prabang airport does not have radar, so it was a bit hard to land and take off in a big cloud of smoke. We flew Thai Air thinking they would be more reliable than Laos Air... but our flight was canceled and we were bumped to Laos Air anyway. Apparently (as we found out in the airport) Laos Air will fly no matter what! The best part of being bumped was there is only one flight per day... so, we spent the night and 3 meals in a four star hotel, courtesy of the airline.

Since "The Bump" we have been in Chaing Mai, Thailand. We have been quite busy! We took a cooking class (just like last time), a massage class, and visited the temples and the panda bears! The zoo here has one panda and one baby panda. Tomorrow we take off (not with Laos Air!) to Burma. We have about 3 weeks there. I hear that it MIGHT be possible to use email, but maybe not. The government there is not too friendly and not too open so, I'll let you know how it goes!

Hope everyone in Boston is all shoveled out!!

Love, Alison


Post a Comment